Unbranded rice imported from Pakistan has flooded the market with local farmers and traders struggling to sell produce from Mwea Scheme.
Mwea, in Kirinyaga County, is Kenya’s largest irrigation scheme, whose performance impacts the volumes of the grain available in the market as well as pricing.
A kilogramme of Pakistani rice is selling at Sh80 while the Mwea brand is retailing at between Sh130 and Sh140 for the same quantity.
Traders interviewed said their mini-rice milling factories were on the verge of closure as lack of profits is edging them out of the market.
They want the government to regulate imports as choosy buyers shun local rice for the cheaper foreign brands.
“Business has become really hard for us because of the imported rice. Many of us will be closing shop soon,” said Ms Mary Mumbi, owner of Good Hope Rice Millers.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 2019 data, Mwea produces about 100,000 tonnes of rice which is 80 percent of the national output.
Currently, the country has a deficit of 400,000 tonnes of rice annually meaning it has to import 300,000 tonnes.